Everybody has, at some point in their lives, had a mentor. It could be a parent, a teacher, a manager or even just a friend you looked up to. Somebody who wanted to push you to the next level, or introduce you to a new skill or way of thinking. It’s not just being shown what to do, it’s being taught how to feel about the task that you are performing and why it is important to both yourself and the greater organisation you are a part of.
Schools, families, businesses: They all have mentors, managers, leaders. But being put into a position of authority doesn’t magically turn you into a good leader: That’s a separate skill entirely.
Management versus leadership
The first thing you need to realise is that a manager and a leader are two different things. Management could be described as a system or set of processes designed to squeeze out efficiency: Budgets and rosters as well as problem-solving behaviour all fall into the definition of ‘management’. A leader, on the other hand, understands that there is more to being in charge than the practicalities of the business. A true leader not only manages, but also inspires. Pragmatism, mixed with people skills.
Engaging and motivating your team is one of the biggest obstacles that you will face in your journey as a business leader. Before you can start inspiring others, you have to look inwards and think about your own attitudes towards your daily work. Do you see it as a series of tasks that just need to be completed, or do you think beyond this? Do you have a vision for the future of your role, do you think about how your position could be used to inspire others? Is this just a job for the here-and-now, or is this a career for years to come?
Management, at its heart, keeps the business ticking over. Leadership, on the other hand, helps your organisation drive towards business growth. Both are important in their own way, but it is the combination of these two skill sets that push an enterprise from the status quo into the future.
The role of the coach
Another aspect of a good leader is the ability to coach others. It is one thing to be able to do something yourself, but quite another to be able to teach someone else. You’ll often find that many people only coach others when it’s time to put out organisational fires. Maybe the person in question hasn’t been taught a particular process properly, or are learning about a new product for the first time. In other words, it is reactive teaching, rather than proactive.
Good leaders are certainly coaches, but they also don’t wait until the last moment to communicate what needs to be done. Driving your team towards results is one part reducing the amount of time you personally have to spend dealing with issues, and one part developing the skills of the people you are responsible for.
These processes will not only make it possible for your teammates to develop down their own career paths, bettering the company as a whole, but also creates a sense of self-efficacy: A feeling of confidence in their own abilities. You can compound this by leading from the front, teaching by doing, coaching according to your own strengths so that you are able to grow them in others. This is the physical manifestation of the desire to strive to do your best, something that every leader needs to be able to have themselves, but also be able to instill in others.
Developing a workplace culture towards success
However, there is only so much a single person can do. The true test of a workplace is the culture that it develops. A leader can have all the clear vision, all the skills, all the proactive coaching that they like, but without the attitudes of your team on your side, all the management in the world won’t count for much.
Whether you are in the real estate industry like myself, the owner of a retail store or the CFO of an ICT company, being able to inspire people both in the short and the long term is the key to success with your staff. Change ultimately starts with you and your attitudes toward your work, but by changing your own behaviour you are also leading by example – becoming the person that your team looks up to when it comes to getting the job done, and done well.
With the right coaching methods, the right perseverance and the right people skills, mere managers can become true leaders. Organisational culture and success begins with the people in charge, so you’ve got to ask yourself: do you want to see the future of your enterprise filled with triumph? Then it’s time to start becoming like that same mentor you looked up to when you were younger. Change your attitude, develop your team and lead from the front; become the leader that you need to be.